Long Beach, NY indie-alt band Family Dinner has just issued their new EP, You’re So Cool. Included in the brilliant EP is their recent single “Eyes.” Written as a love song to vocalist Natalie Simonelli and guitarist Michael O’Keeffe’s cats, Iommi and Leatherface, we got in touch with the band to chat about the single, the EP, and, of course, their feline friends.
Thanks for your time. Just as a starter what are your hopes and plans for the year ahead?
Natalie Simonelli: “Right now we’re focused on writing and recording new music. Just trying to stay busy writing, demoing, and recording until we can hit the road. Not trying to be too optimistic about that or too pessimistic, just trying to stay sane and busy.”
Let’s talk about your new single “Eyes.” Tell us about the inspiration behind it?
Simonelli: “When the boys showed me what would go on to become ‘Eyesm’ I thought it was very fun and upbeat and I thought the subject of a love song for your pets amusing. I wrote the lyrics specifically about Iommi and Leatherface but I made sure to not get too specific and talk about fur or running after laser pointers or anything. I left it open for the listener’s own interpretation really so they could associate the words with whomever or whatever they wanted. ‘No matter where I go, You’re the only one I wanna know’ could be about anything or anyone but I had those two animals in mind when I was writing it.
I never thought people would be asking me about my cats but I guess when you say a song is about something specific people wanna know but ‘Eyes’ is about whoever you want. I’ll have a very specific idea or reason behind my lyrics but I like to try to always keep it somewhat vague so people can interpret them any way they want. I’ll gladly explain what I was thinking or why I wrote something but I like to let the listener decide.”
Now, obviously the debate will rage on about cats being better pets than dogs and vice versa. What is your stance on this debate?
Simonelli: “Michael and I talk about this a lot. We love dogs and cats all the same but we definitely lean more towards cats. Dogs are like humans… some of them suck. Same thing with cats too but you don’t go out in public and have to deal with someone else’s cat. People bring their dogs everywhere, which is awesome but, sometimes, I think it’s best to leave the dog at home especially if they’re yapping and running all over the place. You wouldn’t accept that from a child or any person so I don’t know why some people think it’s ok for their dog? I guess you really have to put that on the owner then.
Cats also don’t tend to jump on you when you don’t want them to or lick your face after they’ve been munching on their asshole for 20 minutes. We can go back and forth for days but it really boils down to how you perceive people as well. If your dog or cat is cool then we’re cool.”
As the owner of cats yourselves, did they choose you or did you choose them?
Michael O’Keeffe: “Iommi chose me for sure. I was pretty depressed and my mom recommended I get a cat. I don’t know why because she doesn’t like them herself or at least didn’t. I walked into the shelter five years ago and I knew I wanted a black cat and she was sleeping but as soon as I stopped in front of her cage she popped up and ran over all the other kittens to get to me. I waited some time to get her because the shelter had to run a background check and she was being treated for an eye infection from being on the street but I would go visit her every day until I was able to bring her home.
I named her after Tony Iommi of course, Black Sabbath is my favourite band and Tony Iommi is a big reason why I play guitar. I got Iommi a bit before Natalie and I started dating but that’s her cat now too. We got Leatherface almost two years ago when we got our first apartment together. We wanted to get Iommi a friend to hang out with because we’d spend the majority of the day at work during the week. We had the name before we even had the cat as we love Texas Chainsaw Massacre and wanted a cat that had patches on their face to fit the name. Sometimes I think he doesn’t know his name because you’re yelling ‘Leatherface’ at this poor cat and he just looks at you with the stupidest face like ‘what the hell are you saying to me right now human?’”
Let’s talk a little more about Iommi and Leatherface. How would you describe their individual personalities?
Simonelli: “Oh, Iommi is a daddy’s girl and Leatherface is a momma’s boy. They definitely have the uninterested big sister/annoying little brother dynamic. Iommi loved playing fetch with bottle caps until Leatherface came along and started playing. She’ll only fetch now if he isn’t around because he just annoys the shit out of her. They run after and attack each other all day. One of them will wait around a corner and attack the other one so the other cat will do the same. They’ve been getting along way better as Leatherface is getting older and not wanting to constantly play and attack Iommi.”
Now, another topic that has caused much amusement is cats during Zoom meetings. Have you had any embarrassing moments where Iommi or Leatherface have decided to join in an important Zoom meeting?
Simonelli: “Michael’s a teacher and they’re full remote right now so he’s always on a Zoom call teaching and Iommi is like his teaching assistant, she’s always sitting on his lap or sitting on the couch behind him. His students are in sixth grade and they call her Ms. Iommi like she’s their teacher as well, it’s very cute.”
What about pre-lockdown, any stories involving the cats where you’ve just sat and thought WTF?
Simonelli: “Oh dude, we have a new story every day it seems. They’re ridiculous. Leatherface’s meow is a rap airhorn. He’ll go ‘meo-meow’ real quick and it sounds like he’s been listening to Hot97 DJs all day (Hot97 is a local New York City hip hop radio station). Iommi doesn’t make a sound unless she’s hissing at Leatherface or your about to feed her. They chase each other around and it sounds like two horses galloping upstairs. They play fetch with bottle caps so whenever we crack a beer open we’ll just drop the cap on the floor because the cats will get it or add it to their secret collections we find somewhere in the house every few months. Leatherface will go and get the cans of wet food and bring them to you in the morning when he’s hungry so we’ll wake up with random cans of cat food in our bed.
Iommi is also the Wayne Gretzky of cats when it comes to playing with bottle caps. She’s also the big hunter out of the two of them. Leatherface will stalk a bug for 20 minutes, then Iommi comes out of nowhere, kills it, and eats it in front of him. I think since we had her first she’s always trying to assert her dominance over him”
As a hardened cat owner now, what advice would you give somebody thinking of taking on a cat as a pet?
Simonelli: “Love them as much as you can. They are self-sufficient animals but that doesn’t mean they don’t need attention and love frequently especially if they’re a kitten.”
And what is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your experiences as a cat owner?
O’Keeffe: “Don’t leave anything you care about on the floor! If you have an amp or cabinet you also may want to cover the grill cloth with a flag or something because your 500 dollar Marshall cabinet will turn into their 500 dollar scratching post.”
If it wasn’t a cat, what animal do you think you would have as a pet?
Simonelli: “A dog! I grew up with a giant parrot in the house but they’re annoying as fuck… at least my dad’s is.”
Finally, on the subject of cats, what are the pros and cons of being a cat owner?
Simonelli: “Pros: Love, cuddles, endless entertainment.
Cons: They will shit on your favourite shirt if you leave it on the floor and they are bored!”
Moving back onto music now, you had a new EP come out on February 12th. Are you already working on new music?
Simonelli: “We’re just psyched for people to hear it! We’ve been playing these songs for a while now and we’re happy to have them down and have people finally be able to listen to them. We had a lot of plans set before the pandemic happened and it ruined all of them but we’re making the most of it. We’re constantly working on new music. At least the boys are! I’m usually the last piece of the puzzle but we’ve been demoing all the new songs we have so I can get a melody ready and start working on the lyrics. We’re working on songs for a full-length and are hoping to get those out to the people when the timing is right.”
Thanks for your time, and good luck for 2021. Over to you for the final word..
Simonelli: “Check out You’re So Cool! Follow us on all of those godforsaken social media apps to stay up to date and hop on this Family Dinner train because, wherever we’re going we’re gonna have a good time baby!”